Saturday, May 15, 2010
Miss Ellen Willmott
This post continues a series on lilacs. I am partial to a white cultivar called 'Miss Ellen Willmott,' which I grow in my own garden and also enjoy seeing among the lilac collection at the Arnold Arboretum. Lilacs Forever, a grower in Maine, describes this lilac perfectly:
"Miss Ellen Willmott is a superb white lilac with double flowers that are greenish white in bud and open to a clean, pure white. The sweet blossoms borne on large panicles are waxy in texture, very long lasting and have true, old fashion lilac fragrance. "
In fact, 'Miss Ellen Willmott' is a French hybrid cultivar most valued for its extremely fragrant double white blooms in early to mid-May. This lilac was named after the English gardener born into a wealthy family in 1858. She mixed with royalty and her name was associated with the greatest gardeners of her time, Gertrude Jekyll, William Robinson and E. A. Bowles. In 1894 she joined the Royal Horticultural Society and in 1897 she was one of the first sixty recipients (and one of only two women) to receive the Victoria Medal of Honour.
Sadly, she dwindled away her fortune because of her obsession with gardening, which led her to purchase three gardens in England, France and Italy, employing 104 gardeners to fill them with plants. However, she left a legacy of plants that she introduced, including this lilac, one of over 60 plants named after her or her home, Warley Place in Essex.